Almost everyone remembers Sally Field’s earnest Oscar acceptance speech in 1985 for her work in “Places in the Heart”: “I can’t deny the fact that you like me. Right now, you like me!” Or, most often abridged to, “You like me! You really like me!” But Matthew Tyldesley and Isidro Valencia had trouble remembering their own speeches when their names were called as winners at this year’s North American Hairstyling Awards (NAHA) in Las Vegas, an event likened to the Oscars of the beauty industry.
Isidro, a local makeup artist who was called as the first award winner of the night, admits that he hadn’t even prepared a speech in advance until encouraged by Matthew to do so – at 4 a.m. while they were enjoying the sights of Las Vegas, no less. “I typed something out on my phone, but when they announced my name, all the emotions hit me at once. I was nervous and wanted to cry, scream and jump. I ended up having to just read it directly from my phone because I didn’t want to go blank,” he shares with his trademark boisterous humor. “I immediately thought about growing up in such a small place in Mexico and when I was a kid dreaming big. When I first started in makeup, I had to beg people to work with me. I just couldn’t believe this was happening.”
Matthew, who was nominated in the hairstyling category for Texture and People’s Choice, agrees that having his name called as a winner among thousands of entries felt surreal, but it was a distinction for which both have worked diligently for years. As they recall their winning moments, their words are blisteringly joyful, providing some insight into what it feels like to have your biggest dreams and earliest childhood fantasies validated.
NAHA is the preeminent photo hairstyling awards in North America, recognizing the beauty industry’s most talented artists and advancing the careers of stylists around the world. Since its humble beginnings in 1989, it has grown to new heights year after year, now responsible for inspiring some of the most iconic beauty photos. The awards are presented by the Professional Beauty Association (PBA) an organization that advances the beauty industry by providing education, charitable and government outreach. There are 14 categories for which you may receive a nomination – from Avant Garde and Haircolor to Master Hairstylist and Newcomer Stylist of the Year. A panel of judges narrows thousands of submissions down to five in each category and the winner is announced at a lavish ceremony in Las Vegas every year.
The two are no strangers to creating beautiful images. You can see their names credited as creative contributors to many editorial photos that are published in this city, but they describe the process of submitting for these awards as a collaboration based entirely on their own creative vision. Matthew elaborates, “This is a process that can take up to a year as you develop a concept and execute your idea with a creative team. It’s a way of taking your skills and pushing them to the next level.”
Matthew’s process always begins with a vision board to help him convey what he hopes to accomplish to his team that consists of a photographer, a model, a stylist and a makeup artist. This year’s winning submission, shot by Marshall Shartzer III and styled by Genna Yussman Greene, was inspired by cloud formation and building demolition. “That may sound like a dark inspiration,” he shares, “but I see the beauty in that. When a skyscraper is demolished, smoke clouds pour out of the windows and billow around the building to create this magnificent effect. I wanted to translate that into hair.”
Isidro, who was nominated for Makeup Artist of the year and People’s Choice, explains that the inspiration for his makeup entry was based on his Mexican culture and his love of color as a result of that, as well as abstract expressionist painter Jackson Pollock. “I tried to incorporate some of his same techniques into my makeup application,” he describes. With a desire to create something that had never been done before, Isidro used a male model, an unexpected decision for this category, and took risks with color and texture. He used Jacob Roberts as his photographer and didn’t employ a stylist since his intent was to use makeup on the entire body and hair of his model. “I was more concerned with creating beautiful art than winning. The model’s eyes were closed in every photo, so I didn’t even expect to be nominated.”
He went on to describe the tedious process that accompanies the collaboration – tedious beyond even the five showers his model had to take to remove the makeup application. “You have to strategize everything down to the way the model is posing in order to exhibit your work,” Isidro explains. “Makeup also naturally cracks so I have to mix it with apple cider vinegar to create the right consistency and prevent it from cracking. The smell is awful but, coincidentally, it is great for your skin.” NAHA is also incredibly strict when it comes to retouching the submitted images. Filters may be used but there is zero tolerance for Photoshop or anything that would alter the work. This means precision is imperative.
Matthew ended up in Louisville by way of a military family. Born in California and raised outside of Detroit, he attended North Hardin High School. He says his Korean mother was adamant about him attending college so he enrolled at the University of Louisville (where he met his husband) to appease her, but he always knew his path was more creative than academic. “I’ve known since I was 14 years old what I wanted to do, and there was no second guessing my profession.”
Now a salon professional at Hair by Charles & Co., Matthew funnels almost all of the money he makes back into the industry by purchasing tools, investing in education or traveling to teach classes as a Redken representative. Hair consumes and inspires him, and even his hobbies are hair-related: making wigs, social media tutorials and refurbishing old dolls. A lifelong toy collector, Matthew taught himself doll restoration and now enjoys making dolls of people who inspire him by removing and replacing the hair, repainting the face and hand sewing the clothes. In recent years, he was convinced to enter some of his dolls into a competition at the Kentucky State Fair and walked away with a first place prize. Modern Salon also just named Matthew one of the 2016 Social Media Beauty Influencers. You too can be influenced by his beauty knowledge by visiting matthewtyldesley.com or following him on Instagram at @hairbymatt.
Isidro has established quite an impressive social media following as well, although it is not always as himself. With a huge Latino fan base, he records and shares regular comedy videos in Spanish, often of makeup tutorials gone wrong. His first video received over two million views, and his Facebook page has garnered over 20,000 followers. He is often invited to Florida and Dallas to attend events or teach classes and is welcomed there as a celebrity.
He takes the fanfare in stride and laughs that it is a stark contrast to his everyday life in Southern Indiana where he helps with his husband’s business, Marshall Monuments, specializing in carving, lettering and setting granite memorials. “I love fashion and dressing up, so people always see my public persona and say things like, ‘Oh, the glamorous life of a makeup artist!’ Not quite true,” exclaims Isidro. “At my day job, I wear jeans and glasses and am confronted with the idea of death every day. Working there helps me grow as a person in hearing the clients’ emotional stories, and it also encourages me to enjoy life so I never end up regretting things.”
Isidro’s hobbies also closely align to his profession in the beauty industry as he proudly talks about his makeup brush collection consisting of over 700 brushes ranging in price from $1 to $250 each. He is committed to staying organized and constantly researching the newest products whether they be his beloved brushes or cosmetics. He says of utmost importance, however, is having a good attitude. “If you have a negative personality,” he shares, “it can sully the collaborative process.”
With both locals walking away with top coveted awards among some of the industry’s heaviest hitters, Matthew taking the People’s Choice Award and Isidro winning Makeup Artist of the Year, they acknowledge that the recognition is rewarding but the goal is to keep advancing their level of artistry. Matthew, who declares that hairstyling is his lifestyle, not just his job, says that this competition inspires the next generation of artists and leaves a legacy of creativity behind. “You have to stay true to your artistry,” he says. “Money is not what motivates me – opportunity is. I wouldn’t have so many opportunities if I hadn’t volunteered my skills and my time in the past. People remember that and come back to you with bigger opportunities when you perform well.”
One such opportunity for both of them was generated when they volunteered for Charlotte Fashion Week. Now, both Matthew and Isidro are handpicked to work behind the runway stages of New York Fashion Week and will be headed to New York to do so in September. They delight in sharing that there is a growing national recognition for Louisville as a hub of creative talent. Matthew shares, “People all over the country talk to us about being interested in coming here to collaborate on projects. I love combating the perception that all of the talent in this industry is in Los Angeles or New York. I want to show that there is talent in the Midwest, there is talent in the South and there is definitely talent in Louisville, Kentucky.” They are both adamant that they intend to keep their talents right here in Derby City while traveling to teach, learn and grow within their industry.
“You have everything you need in Louisville,” Isidro insists. “You just have to have the courage to create your own opportunities.” VT